No HATERS in Real Estate Please!

by Marilyn Wilson on May 22, 2015

Dalai LamaAfter just coming back from the NAR Mid-Year meetings I harken back to one of our greatest spiritual leaders of all time – The Dalai Lama. He has an amazing quote that I feel bears repeating – “We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasing resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder. You have always the choice.”

For those of you that are following the latest real estate news, NAR Mid-Year was a very exciting meeting. There were great strides taken with the Broker Public Portal and RPR’s AMP program. There were great discussions about ways NAR through it’s RPR division could provide a whole new way to help brokers become more efficient, differentiated, innovative and maybe even more profitable.

Just days before the NAR Mid-Year conference Zillow announced that it would provide public records to MLSs – another potential game changer in the industry.

Are these programs “real” yet?

Will any of these programs make it?

Will they roll out as originally outlined?

Not likely. Like all software products and new businesses their business model, revenue stream and even core value proposition might change.

While I believe all of these programs present interesting opportunities for all of us to consider, this article is NOT promoting or critically evaluating ANY of them.

It’s about our industry’s REACTION to new ideas.   As soon as a new idea is presented the HATERS come out in bounds. There are a million theories about why it won’t work or about the “TRUE” motivations underlying the initiative. Instead of spending a quiet moment to contemplate the potential opportunities that each idea presents, we start immediately talking about why it WON’T work.

Why is it that we don’t even give ideas a chance to germinate before we throw them under the bus? Not only did I hear people panning the new initiatives being proposed, I also heard deep criticism of those that had the guts to reach out and try something new and different in the spirit of creating a stronger and more vital industry.   I find that very disappointing.

The world is littered with now-defunct industries that refused to believe that disruption was inevitable or even an exciting opportunity to strengthen an industry. Instead of carefully considering a new approach to satisfy the needs of today’s customers, these industries held doggedly on to their own beliefs – ALL the way to bankruptcy or irrelevance.

I would like to tell you a personal story about just such a situation that happened in our own family. For those that don’t know, we are proud to claim Howard Lund, founder of Lund boats in our family. He was the inventor of the first ever aluminum fishing boat. For those of you that are lake fishermen you know that the Lund name stands proud even today as the best quality aluminum fishing boat in the world.

Let’s go back to when Howard invented the aluminum fishing boat. At that time ALL fishing boats were made out of wood. When Howard returned from his military duty he could not afford a fishing boat, so, having been trained in working with aluminum, he decided to try to make himself a boat with aluminum. He was successful. He built a boat that could be thrown on top of a truck and transported without a trailer.   He was driving the road one day with his boat on his truck and a reporter from Field and Stream saw it and stopped him to learn more about it. The rest is history.

So how do you think the boating industry responded?   Yes, as you would expect, out came the “Haters”. (only they weren’t called Haters then). They said “that will never work”. “Nobody will buy a boat that isn’t wood”. “Who is this guy anyway? He’s not from a “real” boat company – what does he know?”

Do these words sound familiar? These are exactly the types of things I was hearing last week.

Now did Howard put the wooden boat manufacturers out of business? No. He simply expanded the marketplace. He created a new affordable type of boat that was designed specifically for the unmet needs of lake fishermen.   The boating industry is still alive and well today and probably stronger because of his innovative thinking and entrepreneurial spirit. In fact, in the 80’s recession, the cash flow generated by Lund Boats help keep two high end boating brands, Hatteras and Wellcraft afloat.

Don’t you think that we should be embracing new ideas and critically evaluating their true value before categorically rejecting them?   Again, any or all of the ideas talked about last week may or may not work, but then again, they may help re-invent brokerages, MLS and even NAR. Don’t we owe it to our industry to seriously explore any and all ways of positioning ourselves for future success?

I’m not asking our readers to blindly accept new ideas. I’m asking for each of us though to start every conversation and product review with an open-mind. We might just find a way to keep our industry strong and thriving for generations to come.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt Fowler May 22, 2015 at 6:59 am

Good words Marilyn. I saw a saying on one of our ubiquitous southern church signs that said “change is mandatory, growth is optional”. It’s about time real change came to this space. The new models appear to be much better suited to optimally market real property in a more modern, flatter structure. At least they appear to be coming together, as you say it’s still too early to tell what it will really look like. The smartest people are not panning the idea, they are trying to figure out how to make money in the new normal. PS Good to see you and Victor at Acre 121 last week. SE is always happy to co-sponsor. That was fun. Great band!

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Gil Fleitas May 22, 2015 at 9:30 am

Great post, perspective, and reminder of the challenges and opportunities ahead. We should never abandon our “critical thinking” when evaluating new ideas, but we should also make sure we aren’t “thinking” with blinders on. I’m reminded of the quote that the best way to predict the future is to create it oneself. Kudos to all that get in the ring and try to make the future happen.

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Diane May 22, 2015 at 11:34 am

Let’s not assume that everyone who questions a new idea is a ‘hater’ or “throwing ideas under the bus” or even “doggedly hanging on to old beliefs”. Maybe, just maybe, they are giving careful thought and consideration to the new idea before throwing our questions and concerns. Maybe, just maybe, they have good questions and rationale for their concerns or objections. I didn’t see anyone at Midyear being ‘hateful'; I did see some questions and concerns voiced. But unfortunately, sometimes these folks are simply dismissed as backwards, naysayers, even hateful – the result is less thoughtful conversation instead of more. I’d like to see MORE discussion on issues and less ‘selling’ of one point of view.

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Marilyn Wilson May 22, 2015 at 11:46 am

Diane,

I totally agree that we need more thoughtful conversation about ideas that are being proposed and even those that have not been proposed. Questions and thoughtful discussions are exactly what should happen when new ideas are thrown on the table. What I heard,though, in addition to open and productive dialog about the implications of new ideas were conversations there were not so positive. I heard specific people being criticized simply for their opinions and attempts to consider new models and new approaches. That is my intention of this article – to encourage more of what you describe – healthy, open, honest and most of all respectful dialog and less back-biting.Our industry has a tendency to immediately say NO to new ideas before considering the potential merit. The ultimate answer might be to reject a concept but as long as there is careful and open-minded conversation Im fine with that.

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sharon hallock May 22, 2015 at 2:47 pm

As an AE for 37 years, I have experienced and witnessed every technology advance from wet copiers, manual typewriters, rotary phones and dumb terminal….to fax machines, color laser 3-in-one copiers, electric typewriters, cell phones, smart phones & tablets and the internet with computers now faster than the speed of light. My job as an AE has always been more of an agent of change for our members…a watchdog looking out for new and innovative products and services. Since technology took over the real estate industry, my biggest challenge has always been dealing with the wide variety of member needs most often based on the varied level of technological experience and their respective level of affordability. Now even this disparity is closing fast around more efficient devices and services that bring information to the consumers. I always thought giving listing data to the public was opening a can of worms that would not benefit our members…and still think that that was one of the initiatives that may not have been the smartest “idea”, but it did open tons of doors and spawned many new initiatives and ideas.
However, this recent collaboration breathes new life…a resurrection, of sorts, restoring the NAR umbrella that has been losing its REALTOR unity over recent years. Hate and fear can destroy even the biggest and strongest of empires. The one thing that makes the REALTOR MLS the best delivery system of clean, accurate data is the fact that IT IS delivered to the consumer by the local REALTOR instead of listing sites that just make money off the quantity not the quality of the information. The consumer mistakes Zillow, etc. as the source of listings, instead of a means of advertising. I still do not know why Broker owners would actually pay or subsidize advertising dollars by feeding content to these 3rd party sites who are not committed to protecting the integrity or the accuracy of what they publish. The only way they could actually do so would be to build a system such as our REALTOR organization to establish protocols, rules and enforcement processes that are necessary to insure the data remains worthy. It would also be a far stretch for them to become the SOURCE OF ALL LISTINGS without all MLS’s participating. It would take centuries to re-invent this wheel. Even the most sophisticated technology cannot control or replace the human factor. REALTORS have already built this great machine and overcame the issues of voluntary listings vs. mandatory. Without MLS’s providing collective data bases to these third party vendors their number would drop significantly from the top REALTOR information site. Rather than worrying about how we rate as a collective organization in the advertising sites…let’s focus on keeping our broker-only information secure and accurate. This is a huge opportunity for the REALTOR organization to re-set itself and get back to the basic principles of their mission…to unite and professionalize the industry. The REALTOR MLS should ONLY be providing the unilateral offer of cooperation between brokerages and insuring the fair delivery of accurate data via the enforcement of uniform rules. The brokerages should then be very happy independently deciding how to use and advertise their own data. No broker, big or small, should be held hostage by their MLS. To maintain the integrity of the system again…neither the broker nor the MLS should be allowed to use the collective data for any reason. If the brokers want to collaboratively share their data amongst themselves, let them get the necessary agreements and technology to do so.
As a visionary, I am thrilled by this new union between the “Portal” and “RPR” especially after being misinformed about the value and accuracy of RPR to justify our MLS’s decision to refuse to work with them. Without the integration of their listing data, our members were restrained from getting the full advantage of a service that was subsidized by their NAR dues dollars. As a local AE, we are faced with the questions and complaints of our members, and bear the stripes of decisions on our state and national levels that we no longer have any control over. Rather than advising them to “ask NAR for a refund” as was recently suggested to us, I am very happy that the infamous “Portal” and “RPR” are now working together. This shines a bright light of the power and ability of strategic partners. The REALTOR family can only benefit from this collaboration! The REALTOR needs to be promoted back to the center of the transaction instead of just data aggregator and closing agent. Congratulations to all who took part in this historic moment.

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Kevin McQueen May 23, 2015 at 5:49 am

The future is coming whether we like it or not. None of these recently introduced initiatives will come to fruition right away. They represent “directional leadership” — let’s head in this direction and see what we discover. I strongly support Marilyn’s message.

Last week while facilitating a Future Planning session, I said, “the project you are concerned about is 2-3 years out. It may or may not even happen. Let’s focus on what you are going to do this year and next year to make it easier for your members to conduct business and make money.”

Consumers expect to be delighted in the process. Let’s keep our focus on what we can control vs. what we cannot. That’s where I stand anyway. Thanks Marilyn and Victor for your leadership.

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John Mosey May 24, 2015 at 12:27 pm

Marilyn:
I’m sure that there were comments made that were less than kindly towards those who are open to a new or different way to serve our customers/members. I’m not so sure that “Haters” is an apt description when, more often than not, the person is acting out in response to having their comfort zone “poked”.
The sad thing to me is that reflexive negativity is such a common feature of human nature. It almost always has to be overcome before anything happens in any arena, but look around. The changes and advances that happen in this industry are not only continuing despite those who wish they weren’t, but the progress is relentless and so much more “optimistic” than whatever seems to be held dear by your “Haters”.

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